In these days of Coronavirus, the imminent possible threat of self-isolation is sufficient to send we Warts out to the hills as much as we can in case we are forced (hopefully not) to be cooped up at home for two or three weeks where we may also be struck by cabin fever.
A bracing outing in the hills is just the medicine to lift the spirits, not to mention the subsequent trip to the pub afterwards. It was fortunate that the start was at the Doctor’s Gate junction with the Snake road near its summit so that a full dose of bracing could be enjoyed. The Wednesday evening weather also was forecast to be suitably Warty with two hours of heavy rain between 7 and 9 pm. However, there were two disappointments as we started, firstly there was some light, almost sunny and no rain. To compensate, the ground was well, if not over-watered, as we climbed up Doctor’s Gate to cross the Pennine Way and on to Coldharbour Moor. The builders of the Snake Road clearly did not think of we navigators when they decided to put a large semi-circular loop around this moor. Now in the dark, we were (mis) guided by the road on our left believing it to be almost in the direction of tonight’s first checkpoint, the new bridge over Birchen Orchard Clough. Thus, we found ourselves at Cabin Clough having ignored Old Dike which would have been a good handrail for BOC. Had we caught a dose of cabin fever? A quick navigational 90⁰ adjustment and a bit of a sprint (are we talking about Warts here?), allowed us to admire the handiwork of the new(ish) bridge which was also checkpoint one of the last club championships. To continue the theme of the club champs, we then planned to visit its second check point but…….
Our descent into Shelf Brook was almost uneventful though our top orienteer took an alternative line to the valley which required a bit of shouting to bring about his welcome reappearance. I think the climb from Old Glossop to Higher (and Lower) Shelf Stones is one of longest climbs in the Dark Peak and even though we were starting our climb from part way up, it seemed to be a pretty long slog particularly as we were receiving our increasingly bracing therapy. I’m only hoping this therapy did also improve our balancing skills which were tested to the limit, sometimes successfully and sometimes not. Despite this south westerly wind pushing and shoving us around, we staggered drunkenly up to Lower and Higher Shelf Stones.
Sometimes on Warts’ outings, moments of reality are revealed. So tonight; a group of mostly elderly men were huddled behind some wind carved rocks providing sparse shelter from the gale force winds and, now, rain, eating jelly babies and sipping whiskey whilst also struggling to put on warm extra layers. I suppose, really, we do enjoy this?! The stop at Higher Shelf Stones was necessarily brief and there was now the usual compulsion to get back to the cars via the head of Crooked Clough across Devil’s Dike and hopefully to the fence to avoid the watery Doctor’s Gate. Well, no. Our almost final bracing therapy was the rain, wind, running water and bog to the car park. The changing facilities here are second to none, with cold showers and wind providing the bracing needed to complete the outing and, I lost a pair of dry (yes) green socks to change into, oh trauma!
Our newly rediscovered refuge pub is The Yorkshire Bridge where there was serious discussion of responsibility to look after our own and of the benefits of single, double and quadruple bivvy bags and whether they should be carried by us all or by just a couple of us on our adventures. There was some speculation on who should share the multi occupancy bags and how to decide who was most suitable and whether the Warts should appoint and official warmer. This appointment has been deferred until, possibly, a volunteer actually emerges. Until then, we will discuss possibilities on our next adventure. Look forward to it!
© Dark Peak Fell Runners 2020
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